- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 23, 2002

ANNAPOLIS The lottery Big Game means big bucks for players in some states. In Maryland the lottery prize may soon be big black bears.
The black bear lottery may not come soon enough for some Maryland residents, like Barbara Reed, 49, of Garrett County, who came home to find that a black bear had pried open a window last May and plundered her kitchen.
Legislation that would establish a lottery to kill adult male black bears in October and affect hunting on Sundays is the subject of a hearing today in the House of Delegates before the Committee on Environmental Affairs.
Miss Reed and some of her neighbors are upset with the state Department of Natural Resources for keeping a 48-year-old ban on bear hunting in place and not authorizing a bear-hunting season.
Black-bear hunting has been banned in Maryland since 1953. Proposals to hunt again began last year when surveys indicated the population, particularly in Garrett and Allegany counties, has grown to as much as 400.
House of Delegates Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. has strongly urged hunting of black bears and is among sponsors of two bills. He is a resident of Allegany County, one of two counties in Western Maryland surrounded by Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia where hunting proliferates.
"It's important because we don't have black-bear hunting in Maryland and aren't managing the herd," said Mr. Taylor, but "our immediate neighbors are."
But Michael Markarian, who will be testifying on behalf of the Fund for Animals, a national animal-protection organization, said, "Maryland has a rich wildlife heritage, and we should not turn back the clock on wildlife management by allowing hunting on Sundays or hunting of bears,"
Mr. Markarian said only 327 black bears have been reported, "a remarkable comeback from near extinction." In 1990, there were reported to be 200 black bears in Maryland.
Some residents became concerned about human safety when reports proliferated about bears invading trash cans, outbuildings and houses.
Most complaints are just sightings or "minor nuisances, such as bears getting into trash cans," said Mr. Markarian, who urges that humans be educated on correctly disposing of trash and eliminating other attractions for wandering bears.
Current laws allow Maryland residents to kill only if the bear attacks a human or threatens pets or livestock.
Lee Shilllingburg, 75, who lives on a 712-acre sheep and cattle farm in Garrett County with his wife, Ellen, 68, suspects that bears have killed more than 250 head of sheep in the past decade, including 37 last year.
He said many farmers feel its "a waste of time" to report bear problems, so they don't. In Garrett there is a sentiment known as the three S's Shoot. Shut up. Shovel.
The proposed law would set up a lottery. Only experienced hunters could apply for "bear stamps," probably for the hunting and killing of 25 bears. Those bears would have to be adult males because females and cubs are less aggressive and dangerous. Hunters would have to bring the dead carcasses in to be examined and weighed.
The other legislation being considered today by the Committee on Environmental Affairs would increase the hunting season for deer, which number more than 250,000 in Maryland and are increasingly invading cities and towns.
Fund for Animals and other animal preservation groups are opposed.
The bill would allow the hunting season to include "a certain number of Sundays."
Mr. Markarian said Sunday hunting would be dangerous. Data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that wildlife watchers outnumber hunters in Maryland eight to one, he said.
"During hunting season, wildlife watchers, photographers, horseback riders, hikers and campers have only one day a week to enjoy the outdoors without the noise of gunshots and the fear of being hit by a stray bullet," Mr. Markarian said.

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